Callan Cohen (Birding Africa leader - Southern Highlands and Korup)
2. Michael Mills (Birding Africa leader - all three segments)
3. Ron Hoff and Dollyann Meyers (participants - all three segments)
4. Pearl Jordan (participant - Southern Highlands and Korup)
5. Frank Bills (participant - Korup)
Cameroon is an essential destination for any birder serious about
sampling Africa's best birds. Its mind-boggling diversity of habitats
stretches from lowland equatorial forests, through highland forests
and grasslands and Guinea woodlands, to the Saharan edge. Most notable
of these habitats is its highland forests, which form one of Africa's
most significant Endemic Bird Areas, harbouring a staggering 25 endemics,
including the critically endangered Mount Kupe Bush-shrike
(described in 1952 and less than 30 individuals recorded since then)
and mythical Bannerman's Turaco.
key African species that are best searched for in Cameroon include
Crossley's Ground Thrush, Grey-headed Broadbill, Quail Plover, Egyptian
Plover, Cricket Warbler and, most significant of all, the bizarre
this knowledge in mind we set three very clear goals for our tour.
These were (1) to find all the Cameroon Mountains endemics (excluding
Mount Cameroon Francolin, which requires three days of single-minded
dedication), (2) to track down one of Africa's most peculiar birds,
Red-headed Picathartes, in Korup National Park and (3) to sample a
good cross-section of Cameroon's tremendous bird diversity, particularly
focusing on the high number of other range-restricted and taxonomically
During our 2003 trip we successfully achieved all three these goals.
Every member of the group obtained extensive views of every Cameroon
Mountains Endemic, including the highly desired Mount Kupe Bush-shrike.
could forget our marvelous views of a pair of Bannerman's Turaco
perched out in the open, watching tight-knit groups of White-throated
Mountain Babbler investigating every conceivable nook and cranny in
the mossy canopy, seeing a small family group of Mount Cameroon Speirops
in their spectacular mountain setting, watching a male Green-breasted
Bush-shrike singing from his tree-top perch with a large gecko dangling
from his lethal beak, or being treated to eye level views of a pair
of dainty Little Oliveback feeding on hanging vines.
total we recorded more than 570 species, including other sought after
birds such as African Swallow-tailed Kite, White-throated and
Schlegel's Francolin, Quail Plover, Buff- spotted and Red-chested
Flufftail, Arabian Bustard, Grey Pratincole, Egyptian Plover, African
Skimmer,Adamawa Turtle Dove, Violet Turaco, Standard-winged and Golden
Nightjar (a first for Cameroon), Blue-bellied Roller, White-crested
Hornbill, Willcock's Honeyguide, African Piculet, Grey-headed and
Rufous-sided Broadbill, Crossley's Ground Thrush, Cricket Warbler,
Spotted Thrush Babbler, White-collared Starling, White-cheeked Oliveback,
Brown and Dybowski's Twinspot and Oriole Finch. Top cap it all, and
the highlight for most, was watching a pair of extraordinary Red-headed
Picathartes bounding about over boulders and fluffing their feathers
to dry after a rainstorm.
March 2003: Douala - The Wouri River
Since Ron Hoff and Dollyann Meyers had arrived early for the trip,
we decided to visit the nearby Wouri River in the afternoon. African
Finfoot was seen earlier in the day, but was absent during our afternoon
visit. However, we were not disappointed - Mottled Spinetail showed
well, skimming low over the water, Western Reef Egret joined Great,
Intermediate and Little Egret roosting in the mangroves, flocks of
Grey Parrot shrieked overhead as they headed for they roosts, and
the unusual Brown Sunbird daintily flitted through the mangroves.
The greatest surprise was in the form of Swamp Boubou, a scarce species
in this part of Africa.
March 2003: The Sanaga River and Limbe Botanical Gardens
Yet another bonus day allowed us to fit in some birding a little further
from Douala. An early start saw us making our way to the Sanaga River.
We stopped en route for views of perched Piping and White-thighed
Horbill and Palm-nut Vulture. Scanning the sand bars along the wide,
meandering river, we were soon located a number of delightful Grey
Pratincole, alongside White-fronted Plover and White-headed Lapwing.
Further on was a sizeable roost of African Skimmer and a large flock
of Preuss' Cliff Swallow.
returning to Douala for lunch we made a few more roadside stops for
a pair of Sabine's Spinetail, the only Grey- throated Barbet of the
trip, a particularly confiding Green Hylia and our first Orange-cheeked
Soon back in Douala we enjoyed lunch whilst watching Reichenbach's
and Carmelite Sunbird in the hotel gardens, before continuing on to
Limbe. The drive turned up our first of many Red-necked Buzzards.
Strolling around the gardens we quickly notched up Cassin's Flycatcher
hunting along the stream and Western Bluebill foraging on the lawn.
Just before departing for Douala a pair of Chestnut-winged Starlings
put in an appearance, rounding off a great day.
Specials: The Arid North
March 2003: Douala to Ngaoundaba Ranch
The trip kicked off officially today with an afternoon flight to Ngaoundere.
From here we completed the one-hour journey to Ngaoundaba Ranch in
our comfortable, air-conditioned minibus. Our post-dusk arrival was
rewarded with a displaying male Standard-winged Nightjar. What
March 2003: Ngaoundaba Ranch
Ngaoundaba Ranch harbours a rich mosaic of habitats, each with its
own associated suite of bird species. We spent two full days here,
focussing our attention on a number of key species for which Ngaoundaba
Ranch is famous. Most of these are associated with the gallery forests
that crisscross the area, but some important Guinea woodland species
are also present. The first morning was off to a cracking start with
three Willcock's Honeyguide hawking insects at eye level along the
forest edge, allowing for superb scope views. Shortly afterwards we
taped out Grey-winged and White-crowned Robin Chat, and a pair of
gaudy White-crested Turaco passed by. The surrounding woodlands were
alive with birds. Most conspicuous were typically vociferous Western
Grey Plantain-Eater and Senegal Parrot, and roving bands of Yellow-billed
Starling flocks, a key feature of the avifauna here, included not
only Purple, Bronze-tailed and Splendid Glossy Startling, but most
importantly the highly localised and particularly exquisite White-collared
Starling. Equally attractive, although less conspicuous was Splendid
Sunbird, which responded to Pearl-spotted Owlet call-up together with
the diminutive Senegal Eremomela.
After a leisurely brunch we birded around the picturesque crater lake.
First, a male Marsh Tchagra flushed from the tall grass ahead of us,
as the elusive Spotted Thrush Babbler sang in the distance. After
some focused searching we managed to pinpoint the Babbler, enabling
us to study this unusual bird at close range. Next to come was a small
party of Brown Twinspot, a bird undeserving of such a drab name, to
be followed by the endemic Bamenda Apalis and bizarre Oriole Warbler.
Ross's Turaco, Green-backed Woodpecker and Square-tailed Drongo concluded
a very productive walk, before we settled in for our afternoon siesta.
In the late afternoon we returned to the woodlands, flushing a covey
of Double-spurred Francolin from the roadside as we left the ranch.
Nearby a large mixed-species flock contained Black Woodhoopoe, Brown-backed
Woodpecker, White-shouldered Black Tit and Grey-headed Bush-shrike,
while a variety of finches moved restlessly through the understory.
Careful scanning rewarded us not only with Black-bellied Firefinch,
but also our first Dybowski's Twinspot, another of Africa's spectacular
finches. On our drive back for dinner we spotted a distant pair of
Blue-bellied Roller, which unfortunately disappeared before we could
fully appreciate their beauty.
the next morning we headed straight for the roller spot, in hope of
improving our views. Distant calls of the rollers prompted us to move
down the valley, but not for long. To our great surprise the exceptionally
rare Schlegel's Francolin started to crow nearby. Although
Ngaoundaba Ranch is known as a locality for this little-known species,
there have been few reports in recent years. We moved in silently,
pinpointing the exact locality of the calling bird. After some patient
waiting and tape playing a pair emerged into the open! Fully engrossed
in watching these splendid birds, at least 30 minutes passed before
we managed to tear ourselves away for some birding in the stunted
woodland near the ranch entrance. Here we located a singing Red-winged
Warbler, and the burnt ground turned up our first Heuglin's Wheatear.
Although our attempts at finding Blackcap Babbler along the gallery
forest were unsuccessful, a pair of White-cheeked Oliveback was a
very popular replacement.
another relaxed brunch we decided to concentrate our efforts on
another patch of gallery forest. Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike and
Spotted Creeper spurred us on as we passed through the woodlands.
At the stream, seedeaters were visiting in great numbers, including
our main target, a pair of colourful Yellow-winged Pytilia. Also
seen here was a small party of Stone Partridge, a surprising sighting
this far south. We ended the day back at the roller spot, which
this time turned up the desired views, and a pair of White-breasted
Cuckooshrike. After dinner we headed out for a spotlighting session.
It was full moon and birds were very vocal. An African Scops Owl
came in close to inspect our playback of its call, while numerous
male Standard-winged Nightjar dazzled us with their captivating
displays. Frustratingly many birds were heard only, including Bronze-winged
Courser, Brown-chested Lapwing and Plain Nightjar.
19 March 2003: Ngaoundaba Ranch to Benoue National
Before finally leaving Ngaoundaba Ranch, we had a last attempt
at finding Blackcap Babbler. Success at last!
was mainly a travel day, although we made a number of roadside stops,
the first of which was for a pair of Great Spotted Eagle, presumably
moving through on passage. Next was a mixed Horus Swift / Red-throated
Bee-eater colony and later our only Purple Swamphen of the trip.
By the time we reached Benoue National Park the temperature was
soaring into the low 40s. A few stops along the entrance road produced
our first Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Senegal Batis, Pygmy Sunbird
and Cabanis's Bunting, but the flies were becoming a nuisance so
we headed for our air-conditioned huts. After a rest, and once it
had cooled down, we went for a short walk near the Campement, adding
Viellot's and Bearded Barbet to our ever-growing list, and completing
the day with a stunning pair of Violet Turacos.
20-21 March 2003: Benoue National Park
Like Ngaoundaba, Benoue is rich in habitat diversity, with the key
species concentrating along the riparian zone of the sizeable Benoue
River. This is where we kicked off our first morning, finding Red-winged
Grey Warbler on the outskirts of camp. The rank riverside vegetation
played host to noisy Black-headed Gonolek, skulking African Moustached
Warbler and the shy Black-billed Wood Dove. The water itself attracted
Heuglin's Masked Weaver to drink, with some males nearly in full breeding
plumage. In the nearby woodland we found a flock of eloquent Swallow-tailed
Bee-eater, a scarce species in Cameroon, as well as a large mixed-species
flock, containing our first of many Yellow-bellied Hyliota. Here too
we were treated to our first views of White-throated Francolin, a
species we recorded each day during our stay at Benoue. A male, no
more than 20m away, was enticed from its dense-grass haunt into open
Well satisfied with our morning's work, we headed
back to camp for a well-earned brunch. This was followed up with
a drive to the Hippo Pools, where we had close-up views of the superb
Egyptian Plover, the penultimate river-associated species
Adamawa Turtle Dove was still outstanding, but not for long. A pair
was calling from across the river and although it was getting rather
hot by now, we knew we had to take the opportunity when it presented
itself. Shoes off and into the water! We waded across the Benoue River
and slowly approached the doves, which called intermittently. With
much patience and scanning we managed to locate a bird perched in
the dense vegetation. Fortunately it moved into the open, allowing
us to study this attractive dove through the telescope. Having wrapped
up the riverine birds, we spent little more time along the river,
although we did find an impressive Verreaux's Eagle Owl on its riverside
day roost and Blue-breasted Kingfisher hunting over an open
We had now freed up plenty of time to work the surrounding woodlands
thoroughly. Over the following day and a half we managed to add a
great number of species to our list. Cisticolas abound in the grassy
areas, with Red-faced, Winding, Croaking, Short-winged and Rufous
Cisticola all being seen. Other highlights included six Four-banded
Sandgrouse feeding in the road, a pair of stately Abyssinian Ground
Hornbill, Ovambo Sparrowhawk nest building (possibly the first
breeding record for Cameroon), a Lesser Honeyguide on its display
perch and a pair of the unusual Black-faced Firefinch. A night drive
produced great views of Senegal Galago and African Civet, although
we had to content ourselves with flight views of White-faced Owl.
March 2003: Benoue National Park to Maroua
We spent the first few hours birding the main road out of Benoue.
The last stop, for a pair of Brown-rumped Bunting, turned out to be
particularly productive. As soon as the engine stopped we could hear
Dorst's Cisticola calling nearby and decided to follow the calls.
Many birds were feeding in the area, including a pair of Red-winged
Pytilia, a species we had spent much time looking for over the past
few days. Before finally tracking down the little-known cisticola,
we also managed to flush a Little Buttonquail and spot another White-throated
Francolin feeding in the shade of a tree.
Content with our latest finds, we headed northwards. Grasshopper Buzzard
was a welcome addition to our list during the long drive to Maroua.
March 2003: Maroua to Waza via Mora
An early morning departure allowed us to reach Mora before it was
hot. In the surrounding open bushlands we found a pair of White-bellied
Bustard foraging along a gully, numerous bold Black-headed Lapwing,
ever-busy Rufous and Black Scrub Robin foraging around the bases of
bushes, and Little Green Bee-eater, which provided a splash of colour.
The show, however, was stolen by the diminutive Cricket Warbler,
a species which although not particularly colourful is exceptionally
attractively marked, besides being notoriously enigmatic.
Mora we continued northwards to Waza, stopping for roadside raptors
such as Long-legged Buzzard (rare in Cameroon) and the eloquent African
Swallow-tailed Kite. Chestnut-bellied Starling preferred the more
open areas, whereas groups of White-billed Buffalo Weaver frequented
their large, messy nests. Arriving at Camepement de Waza we settled
in before heading out in the late afternoon to bird the Acacia thickets
and receding water pools to the south. Clapperton's Francolin scratched
busily in the bare, dusty earth, while Masked and Isabelline Shrike
hunted from their low perches and River Prinia and Sennar Penduline
Tit gleaned the fine Acacia leaves for insects. The few remaining
pools drew impressive numbers of granivores, including massive, swirling
flocks of Red-billed Quelea and an array of doves, such as African
Morning and African Collared Dove.
March 2003: Waza National Park and surrounds
We entered Waza National Park as soon as it opened, pausing briefly
at the first waterhole to admire a flock of breeding plumage Garganey,
and Yellow-billed, African Openbill and White Stork. However, our
main quarry was out on the plains, where we headed without much delay.
Soon we were rewarded with our first Arabian Bustard, feeding
on the open floodplain. This was followed later by two more.
spent the remainder of the day and the following afternoon moving
from waterhole to waterhole, both inside and outside of the National
Park. Storks and Vultures were conspicuous with Saddle-billed, Marabou
and Woolly- necked Stork, and Egyptian, Rueppell's, White-backed and
Lappet-faced Vulture all being easy to spot. Evident too, were large
flocks of Black-crowned Crane, one being at least 500 strong! Pools
not only attracted true water associated species such as Senegal Thick-knee
and Long-toed Lapwing (the first confirmed record for Cameroon), but
also a host of birds coming to drink, including European Turtle Dove
and colourful seed-eaters like Cut-throat, African Quailfinch, African
Silverbill, Black-rumped and Zebra Waxbill, White-rumped Seedeater
and Sahel Paradise Whydah, some males in partial breeding dress. With
such a rich abundance of potential prey, smaller raptors were also
a regular feature around the pools, and included Red-necked and Peregrine
Falcon and numerous Gabar Goshawk.
our stay at Waza we also made one return-visit to Mora to look,
this time unsuccessfully, for the strange buttonquail, Quail Plover.
We also took a night drive south of Waza. At sunset a large group
of Four-banded Sandgrouse (at least 500 strong) came in to drink
at one of the waterholes, shortly followed by ten or more Long-tailed
Nightjars drinking on the wing. Some perched nearby on the ground,
allowing us to approach within one metre. Nocturnal mammals also
abound, with highlights including a single Serval and at least three
March 2003: Waza to Nyasoso, via Maroua and Douala
The last day of the northern segment produced the best birding yet.
The first stop was for a pair of gaudy Yellow-crowned Gonolek. At
Mora we looked again for Cricket Warbler, since we had met up with
some friends who had not yet seen it. After a bit of a chase we managed
to track down a bird calling from the bush-tops. Next we turned our
attention to Quail Plover, a species that we had spent much time looking
for over the previous days. But it was not to be - some of the group
flushed a large, silver-and-golden nightjar. "Golden Nightjar"
came the excited yells!
was a male, a first for Cameroon and certainly one of Africa's most
difficult birds! We spent at least half and hour studying the bird
through telescopes and photographic it. Still awestruck, and with
renditions of "Oh what a night...jar" being sung by some of the party,
we managed to tear ourselves away and refocus on the Quail Plover.
Not ten minutes later more excited yells as two birds flushed and
landed nearby, one of which we managed to locate on the ground. In
an hour we had seen Cricket Warbler, Golden Nightjar and Quail Plover!
Overjoyed we headed south to Maroua, where we caught our afternoon
flight to back to Douala. From Douala we transferred to Nyasoso, our
base for the next few days.
Pursuit of Highland Endemics
March 2003: The Bakossi Mountains
The Bakossi Mountains shelter many of the most sought-after Cameroon
Mountains endemics, and provides a great introduction to the birds
of this region. During our two full days here we focused on getting
as many of these endemics as possible, collecting other noteworthy
species along the way. The first morning go off to a flyer, with a
group of chattering Brown-backed Cisticola at the first stop, followed
shortly by our first Green Longtail. Open areas on the forest edge
were productive, and held specials such as Ursula's and Cameroon Sunbird
and Cameroon Montane Greenbul.
These were joined by the likes of Tullberg's Woodpecker, Black Bee-eater,
Superb Sunbird, Luehder's Bush-shrike, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Brown-capped
Weaver and Green Turaco. A female Red-faced Crimsonwing hopped
on the path ahead of us, being far more confiding than usual. We'd
come for the true forest endemics, however, so didn't waste too much
time getting into the cool, moist forest under-storey. Almost immediately
we were rewarded with an agitated female White-tailed Warbler, flicking
her tail and uttering a scolding alarm call. Nearby was an active
group of Cameroon Olive Greenbul, busily scouring the dense forest
undergrowth for insects, a secretive Brown-chested Alethe attending
an ant column, and a dainty Alexander's Akalat.
found a large foraging flock and stuck with it as long as possible,
carefully scanning though... Pink-footed Puffback, Mountain Sooty
Boubou, Black-winged Oriole, White-bellied and Blue-headed Crested-flycatcher,
Black-throated Apalis, Yellow Longbill, Grey Cuckooshrike, Cassin's
Honeybird, Bar-tailed Trogon... the list was almost endless. Most
important were five of our main targets: parties of bold Grey-headed
and Western Mountain (Grey-throated) Greenbul, a pair of diminutive
Black-capped Woodland Warbler feeding, a beautiful Black-necked Wattle-eye,
and a boisterous party of White-throated Mountain Babbler, meticulously
investigating all possible bug hide-outs. Whew!
The highlight of the first day, however, was a singing Green-breasted
Bush-shrike, who carried in his colossal beak a fat, glistening
gecko - a nuptial gift for any interested female. The second day produced
the even-more desirable, and critically endangered Mount Kupe Bush-shrike.
We'd heard it previously, but only saw it move briefly through the
dense canopy of that occasion. After much waiting we heard the pair
dueting from the valley below. We crept closer, bated breath, following
the snaking trail down the slippery slope. A brief burst of playback
had the desired effect as the pair into clear view! We watched them
for almost half an hour, keenly inspecting branches for well camouflaged
prey and displaying intermittently.
29 March 2003: Mount Kupe
Our main target for the day was to track down the elusive Little Oliveback.
We gradually ascended the mountain, first passing through secondary
growth where we added widespread species such as Banded Prinia, Gabon
Woodpecker, Naked-faced Barbet and Yellow-billed Turaco to our list.
Near the forest border we were treated to superb views of a singing
Crossley's Ground Thrush, its bright orange chest glowing in the leafy
upper-storey. Shortly to follow were the Grey Apalis, Yellow-footed
Flycatcher, the epitome of cuteness, and a shimmering Yellow-bellied
Wattle-eye. Finally, with some patience and considerable concentration,
everyone managed to obtain prolonged views of the attractive Little
March 2003: Mount Kupe to Bamenda
It was time to move on, but not before a spot of relaxed birding on
the lower slopes of Mt Kupe. Forest Swallow, with its characteristically
fluttery flight, was conspicuous overhead. The monotonous pop-poping
of Tinkerbirds penetrated the morning air, including the usual Yellow-rumped
and Yellow-throated and our first Red-rumped, which we scoped on its
singing perch. Bates's Paradise Flycatcher was another first and the
unusual Red-headed Antpecker provided a fit conclusion to our birding
stint at Mount Kupe. We headed north - an arduous journey - to the
infamous Bamenda Mountains, home of the much-revered Bannerman's
March-1 April 2003: The Bamenda Highlands
Bamenda Highlands, which form the most significant uplands, area-wise,
of the Cameroon Mountains EBA, have been ravaged by a long history
of human habitation. Virtually all forest has been hacked down for
full wood and has been transformed to farmland or Eucalypt plantation.
For most part the endangered endemics cling to the last gullies
of semi-forested habitat, although the remote Mount Oku community
forest project, the long-term conservation hope of the area, protects
a sizeable area of primary forest. During our two-day stay we visit
a number of sites in order to track down as many of the remaining
endemics as possible.
got off to a buzzing start as, at our first stop, we heard a Bannerman's
Turaco call nearby from the semi-forested gully. A short spell of
playback bought a pair into the open, perched near the crown of a
tall Eucalyptus. There they remained for ten or more minutes, calling
sporadically and allowing scope views and re-views for all. Searches
for calling Yellow-breasted Boubou and Bangwa Forest Warbler, two
further endemics, were put on hold as everyone engrossed themselves.
Finally the pair flew further down the valley and we turned our attention,
successfully, to the Boubou and Warbler. Shortly to follow was Banded
Wattle-eye, yet another highly localised endemic, and Mountain
Robin Chat, together with our first Northern Double-collared Sunbird
and Black-collared Apalis. Before moving on we completed our one-stop
endemics sweep... a couple of Bannerman's Weaver were spotted in the
adjacent rank vegetation.
to higher altitude localities, with grassland, we added Cameroon Pipit
to our Endemics list. Flocks of swifts, including Mottled Swift, whirled
overhead and Pectoral-patch Cisticola continually performed its display.
Flowering trees at the forest border attracted Orange-tufted Sunbird
and in proper forest we finally located a lone Cameroon Olive Pigeon,
as well as another pair of Bannerman's Turaco, this time in more suitable
surrounds. Oriole Finch was another popular find.
last stint of Bamenda birding was for the only bird bearing its
name, Bamenda Apalis. Although we'd seen it previously at Ngaoundaba,
it was a very welcome sight to Pearl, who was determined to complete
her Cameroon Endemics list. 2 April 2003: Bamenda to Nyasoso
It was time to head back south again, but not before a touch of
early morning birding from our hotel balcony. A pair of striking
White-crowned Cliff Chat was active in the hotel grounds, whereas
several pairs of Neumann's Starling flew back and forth, some perching
on rocks to sun themselves. Most of the day was spend driving back
to Nyasoso. A brief stint of roadside birding near Nyasoso produced
the only Square-tailed Saw-wing of the trip. After dark we tracked
down an exquisite male Buff-spotted Flufftail balancing awkwardly
in a dense tangle of vines.
3 April 2003: Mount Kupe to Buea
This morning was mop-up time on the lower slopes of Mount Kupe. At
the first forest patch we heard our main target, Grey-headed Broadbill,
buzzing away in display. Our playback attempts from the forest edge
were clearly having no affect, so we left the trail and fought our
way through the densely-tangled under-storey. It was not far off now
and one quick whirl of the tape brought the male right in, perching
directly above our heads. Over the next ten minutes we watch, agape,
as he performed his unusual twirling display.
with our early success, we headed for the nearby farmbush. Narrow-tailed
Starling and Bristle-nosed Barbet perched conspicuously at their nesting
colonies in a colossal, dead tree stump. A small flock of Bates' Swift
passed overhead. Next was the gorgeous Many-coloured Bush-shrike,
followed by Black-shouldered Puffback, Bioko (or West African) Batis,
Black-capped, Masked and Buff-throated Apalis, Honeyguide Greenbul,
Petit's Cuckooshrike, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Thick-billed Honeyguide
and, the long-awaited star of the morning, African Piculet, which
sat still for long enough for everyone to see through the
scope! After this giddy rush of lifers it was time to head to Buea,
from where we would access Mount Cameroon. 4 April 2003: Mount Cameroon
Today we ascended West Africa's highest mountain, Mount Cameroon...
at least part of the way. Our main objective was to reach the altitudinal
belt in which the unusual Mount Cameroon Speirops occurs, a species
confined to the mountain. Moving up through the forest zone we paused
briefly to admire Little Oliveback, Oriole Finch and Mountain Robin
the tree-line Mountain Saw-wing, virtually endemic to the mountain,
was common and conspicuous, but still no Speirops. Although tiring,
we stuck to the task at hand, eventually succeeding in finding a small
family party of Mount Cameroon Speirops.
After a good rest, and with much relief that we had found the last
Cameroon Mountains Endemic, we headed back down. Where we met up with
our vehicle we managed to lure a striking male Red-chested Flufftail
out into the open! The evening was spent relaxing and waiting for
the Lowlands for Picathartes
April 2003: Buea to Mundemba Today
we travelled to the frontier town of Mundemba, from where we would
access the rich tropical lowland forests of Korup National Park. By
the time we reached Ekondo Titi, beyond which a fair amount of secondary
forest still exists and provides good birding, it was getting rather
warm. Raptors were active under the clear skies and we were treated
to a pair of displaying Cassin's Hawk Eagle, and Africa's king of
eagles, Crowned Eagle.
Other stops produced more grotesque Naked-faced Barbet, our first
Spotted Greenbul, a pair of very obliging Yellow-browed Camaroptera,
and a stunning male Black-bellied Seedcracker feeding in rank roadside
vegetation. On arrival in Mundemba we checked in at Hotel Iyaz and,
after freshening up, birded the surrounding secondary growth for the
last hour or two of light. Frank almost suffered from birder overload,
with flocks of White-throated Bee-eater whirling overhead, scores
of Grey Parrot bulleting by, Piping and African Pied Hornbill
lazily drifting past, and active flocks of colourful seedeaters, which
included Orange-cheeked and Black-headed Waxbill. On the lawn a pair
of Long-legged Pipit tended to their three recently fledged young.
Not bad for a travel day!
April 2003: Korup National Park
The pristine lowland forests of Korup National Park, bordering Nigeria's
Cross River National Park, are among the richest in West Africa. Most
importantly though, Korup is the most accessible site for the remarkable
and much-desired Red-headed Picathartes, a species which is certainly
one of the oddest birds in the world. Our primary goal here was to
find this bizarre species. So when we entered Korup National Park
over the impressive Mana River suspension bridge, we only paused briefly
to admire a pair of Rock Pratincole. We wanted to reach camp by early
afternoon so we could settle in before heading off for our first shot
at Picathartes. We kept up a steady pace, only stopping for active
mixed species flocks, which yielded our first Forest Robin, Fire-crested
Alethe and Shining Drongo, and certain select birds such as a noisy
party of White-crested Hornbill.
Later, with bated breath, we found ourselves tiptoeing through the
peculiar boulder-world of the Picathartes. After almost two hours
our patience and dedication were rewarded with terrific views of a
pair of Red-headed Rockfowl bounding over boulders no more than 15m
away, fluffing out their feathers to dry after the rainstorm. We drifted
back to camp, quietly savouring sweet success. Our early triumph meant
that we had freed up much time to look for other birds, although we
couldn't resist another shot at Picathartes the following evening,
again with great success.
birds were vocal in the forest, very few were tape-responsive. We
focussed our attention on mixed-species flocks, carefully sifting
our way through the mass of greenbuls. Eastern Bearded Greenbul was
the first to go, followed shortly by the almost-identical pair of
Icterine and Xavier's. Red-tailed and White-bearded Greenbul required
more time, and Ansorge's remained elusive until the last morning.
Probably the two most stubborn, however, were the two Bristlebills.
These, by voice, were two of the most common species in the forest,
but their skulking habits meant that both Red-tailed and Lesser
Bristlebill remained unseen for most of the group until our walk
out of the forest. Other birds that frequented the roving foraging
flocks included Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush,
Chestnut Wattle-eye, Pale-breasted and Blackcap Illadopsis, and Blue-billed
and Crested Malimbe. We also found singles of Dusky Crested and Chestnut-capped
Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye and yet another taxonomic enigma,
Red-headed Antpecker. Around camp we added the diminutive Lemon-bellied
Crombec and a group of fluttery Sabine's Spinetail to our list.
of the best birds required specific targeting. Blue-headed Wood Dove,
after a few tries, was enticed into view for everyone, although only
some of the group managed to see Bare-cheeked Trogon and Chocolate-backed
Kingfisher remained just a eerie call.
the whooshing wings of the colossal Yellow-casqued Hornbill allowed
everyone to obtain good views in the end, whereas Red-billed Dwarf
Hornbill moved more silently through the mid-storey, although was
more obliging. One of the most popular delights was a displaying male
Rufous-sided Broadbill, which gave Ron some excellent photo
April 2003: Mundemba to Douala
hiked out of Korup the previous day, we had another travel day ahead
of us, this time back to Douala. We did, however, have time for
a number of stops, the first of which was for a noisy flock of Great
Blue Turaco, a bird Frank had quietly been hoping for. A riverside
stop produced Cassin's Flycatcher, and Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch
feeding in a large flowering tree. The last stop was most rewarding,
producing spectacular views of Bates' Swift and Cassin's Spinetail,
and a flock of Red-vented Malimbe. Not a bad way to end a trip!
Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours
for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders, and combining
interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, plants and other natural
history. Our guides know the continents
birds like few others; we've written two acclaimed guide
books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds
and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding
destinations. Birding is more than
our passion, it's our lifestyle and we are dedicated to making professional
best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences.
Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further
into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international
tour companies. We've run Conservation
Tours in association with the African
Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international
tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit.